Report a pothole

Pothole repair - questions and answers

How do we identify potholes?

Our team of six highway inspectors regularly inspect the borough’s roads, pavements and alleys to identify potholes and other problems on the highway. They walk every road in the borough twice a year.

The frequency of inspections depends on the type of road. Busier routes such as ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads are inspected monthly, whereas quieter routes and cycle ways are inspected less often, most being visited every six months. Footpaths are inspected once a year.

We also react to reports from the general public by having an inspector visit the site and assess the potholes. 

If you see a pothole circled in yellow paint we have inspected it and it is on the schedule to be repaired.

We very much welcome and appreciate help from the public to report potholes to us so that we can identify and fix them. If you can’t see a yellow marking on the pothole we may not know about it so please report it.

What causes a pothole?

When the surface ages, it becomes more porous and brittle allowing rainwater to penetrate through cracks and further weaken the material.

In freezing conditions, any water that has penetrated the surface can turn to ice which expands and can cause the surface to break up more quickly. As traffic drives over the damaged surface the material moves slightly and breaks up more, forming a pothole.

When does damage in the road qualify for repair?

In the road, if a hole is deeper than 40mm we will treat it as a pothole and aim to repair it within 24 hours of inspection. In a pavement, it must be deeper than 30mm. We aim to inspect a reported pothole within four working days.

If the road damage is between 30mm and 40mm we will attend to it on a programmed basis, (25mm to 30mm for a pavement). Anything less than 30mm in a road and 25mm in a pavement will not be repaired.

Why do you only repair holes deeper than 40mm?

If road surface damage is less than 40mm deep it is not deep enough for surface repair to stick. To repair something shallower than 40mm we have to remove road surface around the hole and then fill it back in which takes a lot more time and costs more money.

The measurement of 40mm is based on recommendations from national guidelines.

We have limited resources which is why we prioritise repairing holes greater than 40mm deep to prevent damage to cars. We would like to repair everything on our road network but the scale of repairs, limited budget and constant damage to surfaces means this is impossible.

How quickly will a pothole be filled?

If a pothole is more than 40mm deep we aim to repair it within 24 hours of identification by one of our inspectors. If the pothole is on a quiet road, we try to complete a permanent patch on the first visit. If it is on a busy road, if there are many potholes to be filled or the weather is particularly bad, we may have to fill the hole to make it safe and return at a later date with traffic management such as traffic lights, to finish it off.

Any defect which is identified between 30mm and 40mm in a road (between 25 and 30mm in a pavement) will be assessed and an order raised for repair; we aim to complete these patches within six weeks but volume of work, very bad weather and the need to arrange for traffic lights or road closures may cause delays to this.

Anything less than 30mm on a road or 25mm deep on a pavement is not acted upon but we will continue to monitor the damage during our inspections.

Why do you just fill holes instead of repairing them properly?

There are several reasons why potholes may just be filled temporarily. 

To fix a pothole properly we often have to remove more of the road around the pothole and then refill the larger hole. On major roads this can cause a lot of disruption so we may temporarily fix the hole until we can come back to fix it properly in a way that causes minimum disruption.

Weather can also cause issues. If the weather is too wet, or too cold, the repair will not set properly so we fill the hole temporarily and then come back to do the permanent repair when the weather is better. If we did the main fix in bad weather it would break quickly, wasting a lot of time and money.

When a road surface is cracking around the pothole, or there are several more small repairs needed in a road, we may temporarily fix the main pothole and then return to repair a much bigger patch. This  may require significant amounts of tarmac, machinery, labour and planning and so takes longer to arrange than just filling the hole which is causing the immediate danger. 

I have reported a pothole online - what happens next?

Thank you for helping to improve the safety of Swindon’s roads by reporting problems to us. When you complete the Report a Pothole form, you should receive an automated email confirming that your report was submitted to our teams. We aim to inspect a reported pothole within four working days. 

If you see a pothole circled in yellow paint we have inspected it and it is on the schedule to be repaired.

Unfortunately, due to limited resources and budget, we are unable to respond to each individual report with its outcome. We are looking at ways to improve the Report a Pothole service in the future and would appreciate any feedback you may wish to give to Customer Services.

I pay high road tax and fuel prices so why aren’t the roads in better condition?

Funds from vehicle excise duty (VED) and fuel don't come directly to us, they go to Central Government. Each year, we receive a proportion of these funds from Central Government which we must decide how to use. 

Overall, funding from the Government for transport for the next four years has reduced by approximately 15 per cent in real terms, taking into account inflation. In recent years the Council has been investing more into highway maintenance to supplement the maintenance grants given by Central Government.  

The previous two exceptionally severe winters have resulted in significant damage which we are trying to repair. It's thought that the nation as a whole has a £9 billion backlog of road repairs.

We maintain over 510 miles of roads in and around Swindon and aim to deliver the best possible maintenance programme for our road network within our limited budget and resources.

The Government recently gave local councils money to repair potholes, where are you spending the money?

Central Government has recently made additional funding available to help with pothole repairs through the Pothole Action Fund. We plan to spend £405,000 of this money on a number of large patch repairs across the borough to provide permanent solutions to some problem areas of road surface.

Can I claim against the Council if a pothole has caused injury or damage to my property?

You may be entitled to a compensation claim against the Council if you or your property has been damaged because of a fault in a road, pavement or cycle path. The outcome of a claim depends on many different factors and you are not automatically entitled to compensation.

A claim form is available below to download:

All legitimate claims are assessed individually and fairly and, where the Council is negligent, we will seek to settle the claim as quickly as possible.

More information on making a claim is available in the document below:

Why do we sometimes have to repair the same pothole multiple times?

When a road surface is cracking around the pothole, or there are several more small repairs needed in a road, we may temporarily fix the pothole to make the road safe and then return later to repair a much bigger patch. It can take a long time to arrange a large repair as it may require a significant amount of tarmac, machinery, labour and planning.

If a temporary repair fails before we can make the permanent repair, we will put in another temporary repair until the permanent one takes place. This may happen multiple times but it is better to keep the road safe than leave an empty pothole until the permanent repair is done. 

Whilst multiple repairs may not seem to make sense it is more cost effective and safer for road users given our limited resources.


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